An Officer and A Spy

Harris, Robert

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
An Officer and A Spy
"Robert Harris returns to the thrilling historical fiction he has so brilliantly made his own. This is the story of the infamous Dreyfus affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged novel of conspiracy and espionage. Paris in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil's Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of twenty-thousand. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, the ambitious, intellectual, recently promoted head of the counterespionage agency that "proved" Dreyfus had passed secrets to the Germans. At first, Picquart firmly believes in Dreyfus's guilt. But it is not long after Dreyfus is delivered to his desolate prison that Picquart stumbles on information that leads him to suspect that there is still a spy at large in the French military. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself. Bringing to life the scandal that mesmerized the world at the turn of the twentieth century, Robert Harris tells a tale of uncanny timeliness--a witch hunt, secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, the fate of a whistle-blower--richly dramatized with the singular storytelling mastery that has marked all of his internationally best-selling novels"--

Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2014.
Edition: First United States edition.
Copyright Date: ♭2013
ISBN: 0385349580
Characteristics: xi, 429 pages ;,25 cm


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Mar 17, 2015
  • redworc rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

An interesting piece of history in France. Dragged a bit in places and I skipped some pages but I held on to the end.

Feb 25, 2015
  • brooksvan rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is an impressive book, in fact something of a minor epic in the way it encompasses the universal themes of monstrous injustice and redemption. The Alfred Dreyus story is familiar: how the French officer was in the late 1800s falsely accused of being a German spy (hence the title), stripped of his rank and exiled to the ghastly penal colony of Devil's Island. Throughout his incredible ordeal and suffering, Dreyfus never ceased being a loyal member of the officer core. Indeed, the Dreyfus of Robert Harris is not a particularly likeable person (except the sympathy you feel for his tribulation). The real hero is George Picquart, initially a contented colonel who finds it difficult to move against his superiors even when he finally uncovers the immense scope and inhuman, cynical nature of the conspiracy. He himself is persecuted for his persistent efforts to right the wrongs perpetuated against Dreyfus and indeed suffers almost to the extent Dreyfus does in exile. (The French Army, press and legal system do not come out well in this tale.) "An Officer and a Spy" is exceedingly well writen: long, yet suspenful, even riveting, and packed with enthralling period detail. Harris, while a best-seller, may be a bit underrated -- this work (as well as the earlier "Ghost') surely moves him into the front ranks of contemporary writers.

Dec 09, 2014
  • vickilh rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This was a great read! An engrossing page-turner, very well-written. It was a great way to learn more about the episode in French history.

Oct 28, 2014

Best Thriller of the Year Award winner (British Crime Thriller Awards)

Oct 23, 2014
  • becker rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Spies, treason, political corruption, conspiracy and 19th century courtroom drama all based around the infamous true life Dreyfus Affair in France in 1895. This is an interesting piece of history transformed into a very well told work of fiction. Good reading.

Sep 04, 2014
  • DanglingConversations rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I have discovered a new author and am looking forward to reading more of his work! What a great telling of a shameful piece of French history. I studied the Dreyfus Affair in history, but this really reflects the impact the affair had on the country and European politics.

Aug 18, 2014
  • athompson10 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Tense and fast-paced; Harris takes a complex historical case and makes it both easy to follow and relevant today.

Aug 09, 2014
  • Diane Suter rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I couldn't put this book down. When I got to the flashback about the original trial, I realized why he must have chosen this topic--it was Guantanamo, it was Omar Khadr. Nothing much has changed in 120 years.

Feb 04, 2014

Today’s Between the Covers podcast is with novelist Robert Harris, author of An Officer and a Spy. We discuss why he chose to write a historical thriller about the Dreyfus Affair, whether this “French Watergate” (as he calls it) holds any lessons for national security in the 21st century, and why his books (Fatherland, Selling Hitler, and this new one) often touch on the problem of anti-Semitism.
- National Review On Line 2/4/14

Jan 29, 2014
  • Daphne57 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Great novel based on historic facts; it was a marvelous experience reading a story that might have happened yesterday.

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